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Italian Migration to Canada

  • Jan 1, 1496


    Any year-only dates will be presented as either January 1st or December 31st of that year, as this website does not allow year-only dates to be entered. Dates with month and year only will be entered with the last day of the month in question. Since each box has a text limit, bibliographical citations are in an MS Word document in the Dropbox. The only exception is quoted text, which will have an in-text citation following use.
  • Dec 31, 1497

    John Cabot Explores Newfoundland

    John Cabot, an Italian navigator, was the earliest recorded Italian to visit Canada through his exploration of Newfoundland, believing it was England.
  • Dec 31, 1524

    Giovanni Verrazzano Explores Canada

    In 1524, Italian navigator Giovanni Verrazzano explored parts of Atlantic Canada for France.
  • Francesco Giuseppe Bressani visits Canada

    As part of a Jesuit missionary advance, Francesco Giuseppe Bressani studied Iroquoian-speaking bands within Huron country (modern-day Quebec).
  • Italians serve in the military of New France

    Under French order, many Italians in the late 1600s served in the military of New France (even as officers), in order to stop attacks by the Iroquoian Peoples. Following their time as soldiers, many Italians began to settle on the land.
  • Italians serve in the War of 1812

    Much like before with the military of New France, the War of 1812 saw many Italians serve with the British army. Following the War, many Italians (roughly 200) settled on land granted to them by the British in Southern Ontario and Quebec.
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    Canada receives its first Italian immigrants

    Although the mass migration of Italians to Canada happened decades later, the first migrants settled in Canada in the 1830s and 40s. These migrants settled primarily in largely populated cities, such as Toronto and Montreal, and were predominately in trades such as the hotel industry, craft work, teaching, and the arts.
  • Italy is Unified... Sending Italians Out.

    In 1861, after a long process of revolutions and wars, Italy became unified as a Kingdom. Unification meant improvements of socio-economic conditions within the Kingdom. Now that more countries had a larger access to quality life, a demographic boom occurred, forcing overpopulation within Italy; the reason many Italians emigrated in the years following.
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    Clifford Sifton: Minister of Interior

    Clifford Sifton was the Minister of Interior for Canada from 1895 to 1905 - a position that is responsible for immigration. Sifton is remembered as being one of the forefathers of immigration policies within Canada. He envisioned a Canada where the West was filled with immigrants-turned-farmers. Sifton also discouraged immigrants from populating cities, as well as discriminating against unfavourable peoples.
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    First Wave of Mass Italian Immigration

    Though the Government of Canada was not in favour of Italian migration due to their seemingly unsuitability to farming, this wave of diaspora saw over 60,000 Italians migrate to Canada, close to 120,000 if you consider those that entered Canada through the United States. The vast majority of these immigrants were young males who responded to the need for labour workers in the railway, mining, and manufacturing industries. Many stayed, and soon formed Italian communities within Canada.
  • 1906 Immigration Act

    "The purpose of the Act was 'to enable the Department of Immigration to deal with undesirable immigrants' by providing a means of control." The 1906 Immigration Act expanded categories of prohibited immigrants and gave more power to the Government to deport immigrants. (Canadian Council for Refugees, 2000, Web)
  • 1910 Immigration Act

    This amendment to the Immigration Act gave the Government increased power of regulating immigration through Orders in Council, allowed the prohibition of immigrants under the 'continuous journey' rule and those unsuitable to the climate of Canada, introduced the concept of 'domicile', and further expanded deportation laws.
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    World War I

    The outbreak of World War I ultimately slowed immigration from Italy to Canada. This is due to the large number of young men (who were the primary migrant group) busy fighting on the battlefields.
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    The Interwar Wave

    Following World War I, Italian immigration rose back up despite Canada's much more restricted immigration policies. At the time, poverty was dominant in the overpopulated and rural Southern Italy along with a poor health and education system. Due to this, many Italian families migrated overseas to join their breadwinner husband/fathers. Within this the interwar time period, between 29,000 and 40,000 Italians migrated to Canada.
  • 1919 Immigration Act

    This amendment to the Immigration Act once again expanded laws for deportation, as well as restricting entry into Canada. Furthermore, Section 38 was expanded to allow the Cabinet to prohibit any race, nationality, or class for reasons that include, but are not limited to, economic conditions, cultures, and suitability.
  • 1919 Naturalization Act

    The Naturalization Act was amended in 1919 to allow the Government to revoke the citizenship of any immigrants found disloyal to the country or of poor character.
  • 1923: Immigration is Encouraged in Canada

    After the War, Canada experienced fairly low immigration and economic bliss. Because of this, they opened their doors to immigrants of 'preferred countries'. Italy however, was not included on this list.
  • 1925 Railway Agreement

    This agreement was signed by the Canadian Pacific and Canadian National Railways along with the Government of Canada. This agreement recruited immigrants (including those non-preferred) to work for the railways. This resulted in many young Italian men to migrate to Canada.
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    Italian Immigration Statistics

    From 1928 to 1939, 6132 Italians migrated to Canada.
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    The Great Depression

    Like World War I and II, the Great Depression saw few Italians migrate to Canada. The poor (and soon to be worse) economic conditions forced the Government of Canada to strengthen restrictions on how many immigrants may enter Canada. Throughout this time, Italian family networks and careful budgeting helped migrants through unemployment and deprivation. This all soon changed with the introduction of fascism.
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    World War II, Fear of Fascism, and the War Measures Act

    Like World War I, immigration was close to non-existent within the War years. To make matters worse, Italy's alliance with Nazi Germany in World War II caused a Canadian fear and hostility towards fascism. Italians were categorized as 'enemy aliens' throughout the duration of the War, and hundreds even had their liberty suspended, as per the War Measures Act, were arrested and sent to internment camps. This discrimination pushed many Italians to anglicize their names and deny their nationality.
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    Italian Immigration Statistics

    From 1940 to 1949, 11384 Italians migrated to Canada.
  • Italians Removed from 'Enemy Aliens' Category

    In 1947, Italians were removed from the category of "enemy aliens" within Canada, a category they were particularly subject to due to the fear of Fascism during World War II. The removal sparked mass Italian immigration.
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    Italian Immigration Statistics

    From 1950 to 1959, 238563 Italians migrated to Canada.
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    Second Wave of Mass Italian Immigration

    The removal of Italians from the 'enemy alien' list and Canada's post-War economic boom forced the largest mass migration of Italians in Canadian history. The vast majority of migrants within this phase arrived through chain-migration (migrants were sponsored by relatives who are already in Canada) and remained permanent settlers of Canada. This phase saw over 454,000 Italians find homes, whether permanent or temporary, in Canada.
  • 1952 Immigration Act

    The 1952 Immigration Act expanded all previous laws, such as those regarding deportation on restriction. The Act also gave Government officials power to refuse immigration on grounds of nationality, ethnicity, and origin. Furthermore, an appeals process was created to hear appeals from deportation events.
  • Elia (Leo) De Summa comes to Canada

    Elia (Leo) De Summa comes to Canada
    Although many Italians came to Canada within the 1950s, none are as special as Elia De Summa (slight personal bias) coming to Canada. A native of Curinga, a small town in Calabria, Italy, Elia came to Canada for a better life for his future family. His future wife soon joined him, and he began a family in London, Ontario, being a father to four children and Nonno to five grandchildren. It was migrants like my Elia who helped create successful lives in Canada for future generations.
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    Italian Immigration Statistics

    From 1960 to 1971, 215861 Italians migrated to Canada.
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    Early Settlement

    Early Canadian settlement was difficult for many Italian immigrants. Particularly, the very different language and cultures between Canada and Italy had many Italians worried with unfamiliarity. Many Italians were associated with organized crime (mafia) and fascism, and received discrimination based off these prejudices. To move past this, many Italian immigrants looked to other Italian-Canadians for support, and formed/participated in cultured communities and organizations such as Little Italy.
  • 1962 Immigration Regulations

    In 1962, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, Ellen Fairclough, implemented regulations to immigration that "removed most racial discrimination, although Europeans retained the right to sponsor a wider range of relatives than others." (Canadian Council for Refugees, 2000, Web).
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    Immigration Slows Down

    With the creation of the points system in 1967, immigration decreased significantly as it limited the range of relatives who could receive sponsorship for migration, the process by which many Italians came to Canada in prior years. Furthermore, Italian migration was also slowed as the Italian economy began to grow and recover in the late 1960s. This removed one of the major pull factors for immigration and kept many Italians in their native land.
  • Introduction of the Points System

    Lester B. Pearson's Liberal caucus incorporated the points system (which is still present today). This eliminated any remaining forms of racial discrimination regarding immigration and also allowed visitors to apply for immigrant status within Canada.
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    Modern Day

    Today, not only is Italian migration steady, but the Italian-Canadian community has also largely been involved within the social cultural, and economic makeup of Canada. This can be seen with the advocacy for safe labour conditions, as well many forms of media, such as OMNI and Telelatino. This productivity within the Italian-Canadian community has played a strong hand in the sustainability of Italian ethnicity and culture to this day, and also for future generations.